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History of plant systematics

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– Antiquity
– Theophrastus wrote Historia Plantarum, listing over 500 plant species.
– Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica classified plants by medicinal effects.
– Medieval taxonomy grouped plants by appearance.
– Abū l-Khayr’s botanical work detailed plant morphology and phenology.

– Medieval
– Constantine VII sent Dioscorides’ pharmacopeia to Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Rahman III.
– Taxonomy criteria in medieval texts differed from modern standards.
– Nicolas translated Dioscorides’ book into Arabic in the 9th century.
– Andalusi botanical text by Abū l-Khayr is known for detailed plant descriptions.

– Early modern period
– Brunfels, Bock, and Fuchs revived natural history interest in the 16th century.
– Bauhin arranged over 6000 plants based on common characteristics.
– Ray established the monocot/dicot division and listed over 18,000 plant species.
– Linnaeus’ Species Plantarum provided a complete list of known plant species.

– Modern and contemporary periods
– De Jussieu’s work in 1789 influenced plant classification.
– Evolution theory and Darwin’s Origin of Species impacted plant systematics.
– DNA technology in the 1990s revolutionized plant classification.
– The APG system consolidated molecular phylogenetics for plant classification.

– Timeline of publications
– Theophrastus’ Historia Plantarum.
– Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica.
– Cesalpino’s De plantis libri XVI.
– Linnaeus’ Species Plantarum.
– De Jussieu’s Genera Plantarum in 1789.

The history of plant systematics—the biological classification of plants—stretches from the work of ancient Greek to modern evolutionary biologists. As a field of science, plant systematics came into being only slowly, early plant lore usually being treated as part of the study of medicine. Later, classification and description was driven by natural history and natural theology. Until the advent of the theory of evolution, nearly all classification was based on the scala naturae. The professionalization of botany in the 18th and 19th century marked a shift toward more holistic classification methods, eventually based on evolutionary relationships.

The Vienna Dioscurides manuscript of De Materia Medica, from the early sixth century, is one of the oldest herbals in existence. Dioscorides wrote the book between 50 and 60 AD.
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